The NFL is investigating a coach after the New England Patriots 28-21 season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he’s not Bill Belichick.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight ends coach James Daniel allegedly assaulted a Patriots fan as Daniel headed to the locker room at halftime, when the Patriots led 14-3. The Steelers complained after the game about mysterious coach-to-coach headset communications problems and a defensive shift that denied the team of a likely touchdown and forced them to settle for a field goal. Frustrations clearly ran high.
An ESPN report said Daniel allegedly kicked the fan in the back of the leg and yelled at him. After Daniel returned to the coaching booth after halftime, police and NFL security accompanied by witnesses identified him. When police confronted Daniel, he started yelling at them, according to witnesses.
Celebrating both the hoisting of the Super Bowl 49 banner and the return to play of Tom Brady after triumphing in the Deflategate saga, the Patriots fans appeared as a rather rowdy bunch on Thursday night. A second half chant of “Where is Roger?” taunted the absent commissioner while spectators held aloft insulting signs, generally directed at Roger Goodell rather than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Daniel has coached with the Steelers for 11 years. The Steelers named him tight ends coach in January 2004, when Bill Cower still served as head coach. Tight end Heath Miller has flourished under Daniel’s tutelage; according to the Steelers’ website, he has amassed more receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns than any tight end in team history. On Thursday, Miller caught eight balls for 84 yards but no touchdowns.
The Steelers and NFL security investigate the incident.